New challenges, new alliances: union politicization in a post-NAFTA era

Source: Tamara Kaya, Labor History, Volume 56 Issue 3, 2015
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From the abstract:
The ascendency of neoliberalism, anti-state ideologies, and increased corporate power has taken its toll on labor movements around the globe. Today, the proportion of unionized workers in Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development countries is half what it was in the 1970s. I argue that unions are dealing with the crises presented by neoliberal economic integration by entering new political coalitions and nontraditional advocacy areas – particularly relating to immigration, environment, and trade – in an effort to increase their relevance, influence, and allies. I examine how the North American Free Trade Agreement helped politicize unions to move beyond traditional workplace-centered struggles and engage in broader and more diverse political struggles linked at the domestic and the transnational level. Union positions vis-à-vis immigrants have shifted dramatically from supporting draconian legislation to leading a broad-based movement for immigrants’ rights. Key unions joined with environmental organizations to advocate for environmental and worker protections through a green economy and green jobs; unions continue their fair trade advocacy, fighting the Tran-Pacific Partnership and the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreements and investor–state enforcement mechanisms. In an interesting and important twist, unions’ foray into these new arenas in part results directly from the privatization of governance practices, which has undermined democratic processes across the continent.